Cochrane Nordic kerfuffle – HPV vaccine is still safe and effective

Cochrane Nordic

If you’ve been following the old dinosaur’s articles over the past few weeks,  you’d know the ongoing kerfuffle between the anti-vaccine group located within Cochrane Nordic and the parent Cochrane Collaboration. Cochrane Nordic attacked a well done systematic review, published by Cochrane, of safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine without merit.

In case you are unfamiliar with the organization, Cochrane Collaboration is a critically important source of evidence-based medicine and a useful tool in providing analytical evidence that can debunk pseudoscientific beliefs. Cochrane’s goal is to organize research data and publications in a logical way that helps physicians and researchers make appropriate decisions about a proposed new therapy, medication or clinical idea.

According to Cochrane, their mission is:

…to provide accessible, credible information to support informed decision-making has never been more important or useful for improving global health. In the Internet age, people have much greater access to health information, but little way of knowing whether that information is accurate and unbiased. We do not accept commercial or conflicted funding. This is vital for us to generate authoritative and reliable information, working freely, unconstrained by commercial and financial interests.

Mostly, Cochrane produces systematic reviews, which utilizes systematic methods to collect published data, critically analyze research studies, and then synthesize data from numerous published studies in an attempt to eliminate bias and increase the power of the data that includes a larger number of patients than one study alone.

In the hierarchy of biomedical research, systematic reviews rank at the very top. They are, without a doubt, the most powerful pieces of scientific research available in medicine. To be fair, Cochrane is not perfect. They have made egregious errors in systematic reviews of acupuncture quackery in the past. Like all scientific literature, one must examine a systematic review (whether published in Cochrane or any other journal) with a critical eye.

So this whole Cochrane Nordic kerfuffle may seem like an internecine feud of no importance to the world of science. And it would have been, except it has evolved into one of those tropes that the anti-vaccine religion uses to attack the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine.

Let me end this introduction with a simple statement backed by a mountain of science – the HPV vaccine is demonstrably safe and demonstrably effective.

Let’s take a look at this whole Cochrane Nordic nonsense. Continue reading “Cochrane Nordic kerfuffle – HPV vaccine is still safe and effective”

Cochrane HPV vaccine systematic review – responses to anti-vax criticism

Cochrane HPV vaccine systematic review

In May 2018, I wrote an article about a Cochrane HPV vaccine systematic review that provided solid evidence that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine was safe and effective. I considered the review to be one of the seminal pieces that support the use of the cancer-preventing vaccine. Moreover, most scientists in the biomedical field consider Cochrane systematic reviews (see Note 1) as near the pinnacle of the hierarchy of biomedical research.

Then, in early August 2018, several anti-vaccine, and more particularly vehement anti-HPV vaccine, “researchers” at Cochrane Nordic, a branch of the Cochrane Collaboration, went on the attack against the HPV vaccine. They published a paper in BMJ Evidence Based Medicine that blasted the Cochrane HPV vaccine systematic review.

I thought that this critique was without merit. Moreover, nothing they wrote diminishes the quality of the original Cochrane HPV vaccine systematic review. Once again, that systematic review provided us with solid, high-quality support of the fact that the vaccine is, indeed, safe and effective.

Even though the anti-HPV vaccine group provided some apparently cogent criticisms, it was clear that they had an agenda. Well, there has been more backlash against the anti-vaccine “researchers” in a long post by a scientist who studies and analyzes systematic reviews. And Cochrane itself responded to the criticism. Let’s take a look.  Continue reading “Cochrane HPV vaccine systematic review – responses to anti-vax criticism”

HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer – a systematic review

HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer

One of the many tropes about HPV vaccine from the anti-vaccine religion is that the vaccine has no effect on any cancer. Recently, I wrote an article that outlined the evidence that supports a link between HPV vaccines and cancer – that is, the vaccine does lower the risk of cancer. After I wrote that article, a new systematic review was published that, indeed, the HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer.

Many people think that cancer is some sort of on/off switch – in fact, HPV-related cancers may take years or decades to be diagnosed. However, it’s been 8-12 years since the vaccine has been available (depending on the country), so a population of young women (the vaccine was only indicated for women in most countries until a few years ago) is now getting to the age where they may be diagnosed with either cancer or pre-cancerous lesions.

As the population of women (and eventually men) reaches the age where risks of certain cancers are increased, we can use epidemiological studies to determine whether or not there is a difference in cancer risk between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups. Let’s review the systematic review that examined a surprisingly large number of studies that support the fact that the HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer. Continue reading “HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer – a systematic review”

Aluminum adjuvants in vaccines – another attempt for something, anything

aluminum adjuvants

Here we go again, another attempt to link aluminum adjuvants in vaccines to something, despite the lack of real evidence for anything. Recently, an attempt by the disreputable pair of anti-vaccine researchers to show a link between aluminum adjuvants and autism was retracted by the journal.

Several researchers have proposed a systematic review (which are considered to be the pinnacle of the hierarchy of biomedical research) to determine if there are any links between aluminum adjuvants in vaccines to some medical condition. Read that carefully – this paper does not provide any new evidence, it is merely a description of their reasons for looking at aluminum along with the meta-review protocol.

Mostly, I’d ignore these type of papers, because they aren’t providing us with any new information about vaccines. But in this case, I wanted to point out a bunch of flaws in their reasoning, which seems to indicate a high degree of bias. Therein is the problem – systematic reviews are powerful tools in science-based medicine, but many of these systematic reviews are filled with a large amount of bias. And this study is starting from a very biased point of view. Continue reading “Aluminum adjuvants in vaccines – another attempt for something, anything”

Snopes defended Jill Stein – both are wrong about vaccines

Snopes defended Jill Stein

I wish I weren’t spending this much time writing about Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for President of the US. She barely breaks 2% in the latest polls, which means, it’s almost as likely as she’s at 0% than at 2%. Yesterday, I stated that she is probably anti-vaccine, but many people pointed out that the usually reliable skeptical website Snopes defended Jill Stein.

I occasionally cross-post my more political articles, along with any article that offends the anti-science left, to the Daily Kos, a liberal political blog. I posted my Jill Stein vaccine article there, where it exploded. It received over 400 comments, which is big time.

One of the comments said that Snopes, which is generally an important website for debunking nonsense, said that Jill Stein is not anti-vaccine. Basically, a few comments said that Snopes trumps the Skeptical Raptor in accuracy. This scaly reptile teared up a bit.

But then I got my mind in the right place, and thought about what I had written. All I care about is evidence, so if Snopes has it right, who am I to fight them? But let’s take a look at this evidence. Continue reading “Snopes defended Jill Stein – both are wrong about vaccines”